CONFIDENTIAL N.I.D.1/G.P./3        

11th. August, 1945


The original of an address by Admiral Dönitz to the Officers' Corps at the time of the capitulation was found in his desk at Flensburg. A translation, which it has not been possible to check against the original, and which may therefore contain minor inaccuracies, is attached.

2. It sets out in brief the events leading up to and his reasons for accepting the capitulation and ends with an exhortation for the future. Attention is particularly invited to paragraphs 15, 16 and 17 in which Dönitz calls upon his officers to collaborate fully with the Western Powers in order that Germany may one day be able to regain the territories in the East now lost to the Russians.

3. There is reason to believe that the address, at least in this form, was never delivered. It is however, known that he did give instructions which have been scrupulously observed, that Germany should co-operate with the Western Allies.

(Sgd.) E.G.N. Rushbrooke.
Director of Naval Intelligence.

Further inquiries regarding this paper should be made in writing or by telephone to N.T.D.1 (Whitehall 9000 - Extension 1261).


1st Lord
1st Sea Lord
D. of P.
D.T.S.D. (2 copies)
Admiral Miles
C.-in-C. H.F.
Cs.-in-C. Home Ports
C.-in-C. Med.
F.O Norway
B.A.D. Washington
D.N.I. and T. Ottawa
Comnaveu (10 copies)
D.M.I. War Office
A.C.A.S.(I) Air Ministry


1. I consider it necessary to talk to you a bout the events of recent days ad here I should like at the outset to interpose a fundamental word. I have always been a strong supporter of the principle of personal and direct touch with the Officers' Corps. It makes for better understanding on the part of the officers and tends towards loyalty, discipline and confidence which, in the end, are transplanted into the men under them; unified understanding is thereby attained in the entire Armed Forces.

2. On 30 April the Fuehrer named me as his successor. At the same time he gave me a free hand immediately to undertake all measures necessary to meet the current situation.

3. The military situation was then as follows. The battle of the Reich Capital and the Fuehrer's fight were without prospects. The 9th Army, coming from the south to relieve the situation, was almost encircled. The 12th Army, under General Wench, which was heading from the south-west towards Berlin with fairly good success, was halted and strongly attacked along its long flank and had therefore to defend itself. Nevertheless, it ran the danger of encirclement. The Army Group Vistula was broken through in Pomerania and Mecklenburg and was retreating westward before the Russians. The Army Groups Schorner, Rendulic and Lohr formed a solid front. It was foreseen, however, that they could only hold out for a short time in view of the shortage of ammunition and fuel. Army Group Rendulic was in addition already in great difficulties over the food situation. The Army Group Courland would also in a short time have to come to a stop because of supply difficulties--shortage of fuel and other war materials which could no longer be transported by sea. The Army of General Field Marshal Kesselring was almost written off and he has had to retreat to the east before a powerful superior force. In Italy, Colonel General von Vietinghoff had to sign an armistice with a superior force. General Field Marshal Busch, in north-western Germany, had only limited forces at his disposal, which were in no way, sufficient to halt the English Army's march.

4. And so everywhere, because of the overwhelming superiority of the enemy in material and personnel, and because of his powerful Air Force to which we had nothing to oppose, fighting had already ceased, our forces had succumbed, or else were without prospects.

5. Thus there was no military means of bringing about a favourable turn in the course of the war. It was doubtful therefore whether there was any sense in the Fuehrer's order. He himself could not bring about an end to the war. Through his heroic death in Berlin the road to such a step was opened.

6. My greatest task was therefore to end the war as soon as possible and thereby spare much German blood in its last phase. It was however out of the question for me to accede to the enemy's demand for immediate capitulation to all the enemy powers--including Russia. Further, this would have meant that the population could not have been evacuated by sea from Courland, West and Eat Prussia, or from the areas of the Swinemuende, Ruegen and Mecklenburg. It was therefore my aim in the west to negotiate for a partial armistice as soon as possible which would prevent bloodshed in a senseless fight and save the lives of women and children by halting the bombing of the last unbombed cities in the Ems-Elbe area and in Schleswig-Holstein. By this action, time would also be gained for the withdrawal of the Army fronts in the east and for the evacuation of troops and the civilian population by sea.

7. This was achieved in the agreement signed on 5th May with Field Marshal Montgomery. On 2nd May I sent General Admiral von Friedeburg to Montgomery with the aim of securing a partial peace for the area from the Ems to the Elbe and for Schleswig-Holstein. This took place after the British had been held up at Lauenburg. Field Marshal Montgomery demanded a further broadening of the agreement, to include Holland and Denmark. I agreed to this partial capitulation on the following grounds:--

  1. Discontinuance of further bombing attacks over the area Emden-Aurich-Wilhelmshaven-Cushaver-Schleswig-Holstein, such as on Rendsburg, Flensburg and Schleswig.

  2. he partial Armies of Colonel General Student in Mecklenburg and the 12th Army of General Wench would be given opportunity and time to withdraw further westward over the Elbe before the Russian drive towards the areas overrun by the English and Americans. Entire elements of the Army would thus be saved rom the Bolsheviks.

  3. The evacuation by sea of troops and refugees from the east could be continued. During this period some 300,000 escaped the Russians and were brought back into the Reich.

  4. In Holland and Denmark, even if we had had the forces required to hold the fronts, it was clear that developments and especially in Denmark had brought the population to a frenzied state and that it would have been necessary to control the situation by intervention with the German armed forces. Since our own country was completely lost, such as step would only have resulted in shedding of neutral blood which would have done us great political harm and brought about new measures against the population in Germany with resultant consequences. I will return to this point later.

8. This agreement with Montgomery enabled us to avoid complete capitulation and thus to save thousand of German lives in both the west and east. It was a real accomplishment in this painful phase of the war. That it succeeded is attributable to General Admiral von Friedeburg's clever handling of the negotiations at the British headquarters.

9. Parallel with this action the State machinery was burdened with the question of our fronts against the Russians in the south-east, chiefly about Schorner's Army Group, which was the largest in this area. Before the Fuehrer designated me as his successor I was worked about the approaching unavoidable encirclement of Schorner's Army Group and had expressed the wish that this Army be immediately withdrawn. Against this there was the view that such a voluntary withdrawal would break up the solid front and permit the Russians to roll on unhindered; a view which was not held by Schorner's Army Group. It was stressed that the large civilian population behind the front could not be rescued as it was impossible for it to trek through Bohemia and Moravia. Further, it was not clear whether the Russians or the Americans would occupy Bohemia-Moravia. The final decision was to hold the Schorner front as long as possible until the Americans reached it and then to have both our troops and the civilian population surrender to them. On 6th May, however, the situation took a different turn when the outbreak in Prague gave rise to the danger that the whole country in the rear of Schorner's Army would be in flaming revolt. The order was therefore given on 6th May for Army Group Schorner to disengage. At the same time--fortunately for us--the Americans continued their march into Bohemia-Moravia.

10. To clarify the Bohemia-Moravia question, I sent General Admiral von Friedeburg to General Eisenhower, whose answer was a demand for total capitulation on all fronts, including the Russian, which meant that our troops would have to stand fast where they were at the time of the Armistice. On 6th May I sent Colonel General Jodl to General Eisenhower with instructions that such an agreement was impossible, since, so far as I was concerned, I could not guarantee its fulfillment. Because of his anxiety not to fall into Russian hands, no soldier would stand fast when he was on a Russian front.

11. This intervention brought no success. On the contrary, General Eisenhower now demanded immediate capitulation, after we had for nearly a week been able to achieve partial capitulation which brought certain advantages to us. We were told that if we did not capitulate immediate, the following would result:--

  1. Not another individual retreating from the Russian front would be retained by the Americans, but would instead be returned to the Russians. This would have meant a complete turnover to the Russians of all Army Groups on the Eastern Front.

  2. Resumption of concentrated English and American bombing attacks on the unoccupied German territory north of the Kiel Canal.

12. I found myself being coerced. On the one hand, total capitulation including Norway, and on the other, if I did not then and there decide, the certain loss of the entire Army Groups in the East and renewed losses of women and children in the German towns north of the Kiel Canal. I had therefore to decide to capitulate. But there was something gained, and that was that Colonel General Jodl, through clever handling, had at least delayed the capitulation for 48 hours. The Army Groups had thereby gained time to withdraw further westward from the Russian attack into American hands, and during this 48 hours it was found possible to evacuate refugees by sea out of Courland and East Prussia. There are at present under way in the Baltic 31 transports filled with German troops and civilians who were saved in those 48 hours.

13. The need to accept total capitulation was especially bitter because its conditions made it impossible to destroy and U-Boats. The 150 odd U-Boats still held by the German Navy will therefore fall into British hands. I must demand this sacrifice in order that the lives of German men, women and children may be spared. My responsibility for these German people, as opposed to the other course (destruction of the U-Boats), gave me no alternative. I could not avoid this step which, if not carried out, would have resulted in the delivery of German troops to the Russians and the killing of German women and children through renewed bombing attacks.

14. In all these difficult decisions I was well advised by Graf Schwerin von Krosigk, the Reich Foreign Minister, who has steered the internal political situation very well.

15. Comrades, it must be clear to all of us that we are now fully in the enemy's hands. Our fate before us is dark. What they will do with us we do not know, but what we have to do we know very well. We have been set back a thousand years in our history. Land that was German for a thousand years has now fallen into Russian hands. Therefore, the political line that we must follow is very plain. It is clear that we have to go along with the Western Powers and work with them in the occupied territories in the West, for it is only through working with them that we can have hopes of later retrieving our land from the Russians. We must therefore keep the following in mind:--

16. Our fight against the English and Americans can be viewed with pride and glory. We have nothing to be ashamed of. What the German Armed Forces and the german people accomplished and withstood during those six years has happened only once in world history. Such heroism has never before been displayed. There are no spots on our honour. It is therefore useless for us to set ourselves against our former enemies. What really matters is that they are here with us and you must treat them with civility and politeness. We must remain loyal to the terms of Unconditional Surrender which we have signed and we must fulfil them. It is wrong for anyone to believe that he must continue the war wherever he can and to cause the Anglo-Saxons any harm in German territory. That would net us nothing except injury to the German people and would destroy the entire policy of the State, which is based on the hypothesis that the land taken from us by the Russians must once again be restored to us.

17. The most important thing is that we must keep a zealous watch over the greatest boon that has been given to us by National Socialism--our unity. Despite today's complete military breakdown, our people are unlike the Germany of 1918. They have not yet been split asunder. Whether we want to create another form of National Socialism on whether we conform to the life imposed upon us by the enemy, we should make sure that the unity given to us by National Socialism is maintained under all circumstances.

18. The personal fate of each of us is uncertain. That, however, is unimportant. What is important is that we maintain at the highest level the comradeship amongst us that was created through the bombing attacks on our country. Only through this unity will it be possible for us to master the coming difficult times and only in this manner can we be sure that the German people will not die.

19. We must all do our duty and above all else we must not resign ourselves. That would be the worst that we could do because nothing could be accomplished thereby--only injury would result. Let us use all our strength for Germany.

Transcribed and formatted for HTML by Patrick Clancey, HyperWar Foundation